VIO News Blog

July 9, 2008

Betancourt Says Colombia Needs Venezuela’s Help

Ingrid Betancourt has asked President Uribe to accept help from outsiders, including President Chavez, in negotiating FARC hostage releases. Caracas newspaper El Universal reports that Betancourt said, “we alone are not going to solve this problem, a friendly hand that helps us is always needed.” Meanwhile, also according to El Universal, French President Sarkozy (pictured at right) thanked the Venezuelan leader for his “tireless efforts that helped” in the recent rescue of 15 captives including Betancourt.

In related news, the Los Angeles Times reports that Colombian officials are denying that their mission to liberate hostages involved a $20 million payoff to the FARC. The Colombian government often bribes FARC defectors for information. Questions are also raised by IPS articles today. First, a story suggests that Colombian officials may have simply intercepted FARC’s plan to willingly give up the hostages. Second, another piece looks at foreign involvement, noting that Colombia’s defense minister said that he consulted the U.S. ambassador about the rescue operation two weeks in advance. Meanwhile, the BBC reports that the US will seek to extradite FARC leaders to try them as terrorists.

Venezuela’s inflation rate at mid year was just reported. According El Universal, inflation is calculated at 15.1% for the first half of 2008. Bloomberg reports that monthly inflation for June was 2.3%, down from 3.2% in May. June inflation was led by a surge in food prices after the recent relaxation of price controls to keep the cost of basic goods low. Inflation in Venezuela is calculated according to the new “national price index,” which measures consumer prices across 10 major cities. Last month, Ali Rodriguez was named Venezuela’s new finance minister.

Finally, emissions laws are changing in Venezuela to reduce the country’s contribution to harmful greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Bloomberg reports that by next April, 30% of vehicles will be required to have dual oil and natural gas tanks. By 2011, 50% of vehicles will have them. Emissions have been a top issue at the G8 summit this week in Japan.

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